Updated 19 August 2014

Could you have parasites?

Do you love sushi? Do you kiss your pets? Do you eat meat, or unwashed fruit and vegetables? If you answer yes, you could be putting yourself at risk for parasites.

Awful as it may sound, the human body is literally crawling with parasites which we ingest, unknowingly, through daily life. Yet, while many of them go unnoticed, some can cause serious infections and greatly affect your health.

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Read: The creepy crawlies on our skin that we're stuck with for life

A parasite is an organism that lives and feeds off of another organism, referred to as its “host”. The parasite depends on the host for its survival, so it’s only in rare cases that the parasite will kill its host. Some parasites, such as lice, are relatively harmless, whereas others, such as malaria, can be fatal.

Read: The horror of lice and parasites

How do you know if you have parasites?

Some of the most common symptoms include:

- Abdominal swelling
- Skin conditions such as hives, rashes, weeping
- Anxiety and agitation – often the result of the systemic parasite infestation
- Lethargy and fluctuating energy levels 
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Constipation or diarrhoea
- Not feeling satiated after a meal
- Gas, bloating and an upset stomach
- Joint and muscle aches and pains
- Food allergies

How do you get parasites?

There are numerous ways parasites can find their way into your body. Some of the most common include:

Food: Raw or undercooked meat can be a breeding ground for parasites. Unwashed vegetables and fruit can also harbour parasites, so ensure you always buy your fresh produce from a reputable source, wash it properly and prepare it well.

Human touch: Some parasites can be transmitted merely by touching, kissing, or sharing food or drinks with someone who has parasites.  And, considering that most infections come from the anal-oral route, the best ways to avoid this is to ensure you exercise good hygiene and wash your hands often, especially before eating or drinking.

Animals: Some parasites can be transmitted from your pet to you, especially if you’re fond of kissing your cat or dog, or sharing your bed with them. There’s no need to give your pet the cold shoulder though. Just make sure you wash your hands often and ensure your furry friend is up to date on their vaccinations and is regularly de-wormed, treated for fleas and has a regular bath.

Water: Drinking water that is not from a clean, reputable source may leave you wide open to infection from parasites. So can swimming in places such as dams or rivers, or even swallowing the water in a public swimming pool.

Types of parasites

In humans there are three chief classes of parasites that can cause disease:

1. Protozoa
Mostly found in the intestine, transmission is through contaminated food or water or person-to-person contact. They can also be found in blood and tissue and can be transmitted by a third party, such as a mosquito.

2. Helminths
These include flatworms, thorny-headed worms and roundworms.

3. Ectoparasites
These include mosquitoes as well as ticks, fleas, lice and mites.
While no parasitic infection is pleasant, malaria remains the most deadly of them all, killing hundreds of thousands of people, worldwide, every year.

Getting rid of parasites naturally

The key to getting rid of parasites naturally, experts claim, is to make sure your body becomes an inhospitable environment for them. The best way to do this is to eat a wholesome diet of clean fruits and vegetables. Foods which have been shown to get rid of parasites include:

- Raw garlic and red onion
- Coconut oil and coconut kefir
- Pumpkin seeds
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut
- Apple cider vinegar
- Pumpkin seeds or pumpkin seed oil capsules
- Pawpaw
- Probiotic supplements.

Foods to avoid when you have parasites include sugar, grains, dairy, coffee and alcohol, as these are believed to “feed” the parasites and encourage their growth.

Read more:

These are the good bugs
Parasitic worms to help obesity
A natural treatment for headlice

Sources: mindbodygreen; organicnutrition; naturalnews; CDC; healthwyze


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